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Historic Diaries: Marquette and Joliet

Late September 1673: Milwaukee to Door County

Editor's Note:

The first Potawatomi (Pous) village St. Cosme describes was on the Lake Michigan side of the Door County peninsula, not far from present Kewaunee, Wisconsin. The second may have been at modern Sheboygan or Manitowoc, where sizable streams enter Lake Michigan. Milwaukee was for a long time a neutral gathering place for tribes from all around Lake Michigan, rather like Green Bay and Prairie du Chien.

As their journey's end approached and the autumn winds blew in their faces, Marquette made no notes that have survived. It's possible that Joliet was recording this final leg of their voyage, but his papers were destroyed the following year. Fortunately a younger Jesuit priest, Jean St. Cosme, left another account of Wisconsin's eastern shore a quarter-century later. He was paddling north to south at the same season that Marquette and Joliet had journeyed in the opposite direction, and it took him 10 days to go from the Door Penninsula to Milwaukee:


St. Cosme's Report: "We were windbound on that island [at the head of Green Bay] for six days, during which our people occupied themselves in setting nets and caught great quantities of white fish, which are excellent eating and a very plentiful manna that fails not along that lake, where there is a dearth of meat almost all the time.


"On the 29th of September we arrived at the village of the Pous [Potawatomi Indians], distant about twenty leagues from the crossing of the bay. There had formerly been a very large village here, but after the death of the chief a portion of the savages had gone to live in the bay and the remainder were preparing to go there when we passed.


"We started on the 31st and on the 4th of October we came upon another small village of Poux, on a small river, where Reverend Father Marais had spent the winter with some Frenchmen and had planted a cross. We stayed there for the remainder of the day. We left on the 5th and after being windbound for two days we started and after two days of heavy wind we reached Milouakik [Milwaukee] on the 9th.


"This is a river where there is a village which has been a large one, consisting of Mascoutins, of Renards [Fox Indians], and also of some Poux. We stayed there two days, partly on account of the wind and partly to recruit our men a little, because there is an abundance of duck and teal in the river."

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